Tag Archives: Sweden

Reflections on ‘Freedom of Information’ at 250

Freedom of Information Act Sweden and Finland 1766

In December 2016, the Information Law and Policy Centre co-organised an event celebrating the 250th anniversary of the world’s first law providing a right to information. It was hosted by free expression NGO, Article 19 at the Free Word Centre and supported by the Embassies of Sweden and Finland. A full programme of the event and the audio files are available on the Campaign for Freedom of Information website. In this post, Judith Townend and Daniel Bennett reflect on a few of the key themes discussed at the event. 

Accessing information may no longer feel like a pressing problem. We live in an age of global telecommunications, the internet and the smartphone with access to ubiquitous 24/7 media coverage on demand. Our data is collected, tracked, mapped and analysed by social media networks, search engines, commercial enterprises, governments and public authorities around the world. And yet, 250 years after the first law providing for a right to information was passed, the right for us – the public – to access information relating to the administration of state power remains a struggle.

Our ‘Freedom of Information at 250’ event sought to put this struggle into its historical context. The event celebrated and commemorated the signing into law of ‘His Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press’ on 2nd December 1766.¹ Enacted by the Riksdag (parliament) of Sweden – which then also included Finland – this was the world’s first law to promise public access to governmental information. Continue reading

Article 19 event: 250 years of freedom of information

Freedom of Information Act Sweden and Finland 1766

On 2 December 1766, the world’s first-ever freedom of information law was signed into law. It had been promulgated by the Riksdag – Parliament – of Sweden and Finland, which at the time was one country.

The 1766 Law is the oldest constitution to regulate freedom of information in the world and is thus celebrating its 250th anniversary in 2016.

It pioneered public access to state information, making what was then Sweden and Finland the first country in the world to officially instigate a Right to Information law.

The aim of this event is to commemorate, celebrate and scrutinise the adoption of this law as well as to discuss its relevance and significance today, in a national as well as in a global context.

The Article 19 event will be held at the Free Word Centre with the support of the Information Law and Policy Centre at the IALS on Thursday 8th December, 2.30pm – 8.30pm.

It is comprised of two moderated discussions and a panel discussion in the format of a conversation, and will end with a drinks and canapés reception for all participants after the panel discussion.

BOOKING

Please note: You will need to book for each event separately.
Please visit this page to book the afternoon moderated discussions.
Please visit this page to book the evening panel discussion.

AFTERNOON MODERATED DISCUSSIONS
2.30pm – 5.15pm

Session 1: Freedom of Information Act (FOI) in the UK and Europe

In the first session the current challenges as well as possibilities of the Freedom of Information Act, both in a UK and European context, will be discussed with:

Maurice Frankel, Director, and Des Wilson, Founder, of Campaign for Freedom of Information (CFOI) – the organisation that, in 1984, was founded to secure a legal right to public-held information.

Helen Darbishire Director of Access Info Europe – dedicated to promoting and protecting the right of access to information particularly in European countries and institutions.

The session will be moderated by James Michael, Chair of the Advisory Board at the Information Law and Policy Centre (IALS) and Special Adviser to the House of Lords Committee considering the Freedom of Information Bill pre-2000.

Session 2: Freedom of Information Law – The Swedish/Finnish history

In the second session the history, development and legacy of the Freedom of Information Act in Sweden and Finland, will be discussed with:

Jonas Nordin from the Royal National Library, Stockholm – a Historian and Senior Lecturer who, earlier this year, published a history of the Swedish/Finnish Freedom of Information Act.

Peter Hogg, former Head of the Scandinavian Section at the British Library and translator of the first ever translation of the TF Law into English in 2006.

Ian Giles from the Scandinavian Studies Department at the University of Edinburgh, one of the translators of the second translation into English of the 1766 Law (October 2016).

Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Democracy, Halifax, Canada and author of a range of books on freedom of information, including comparative and analytical studies on the right to information and international FOI consultant.

The session will be moderated by Ben Worthy from Birkbeck College, University of London. Ben is a lecturer in politics who has authored many works on freedom of information.

EVENING PANEL DISCUSSION
6.00pm – 8.30pm

The evening panel discussion will be presented in the format of a conversation. It will be moderated by the BBC’s Nicola Cain and will include the UK’s new Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, who will cover the contemporary issues, challenges and opportunities presented by living with FOI laws – and what the future may hold.

Speakers

Nicola Cain, BBC Head of Legal – Freedom of Information & Contentious Data Protection who deals with FOI requests and appeals.

Elizabeth Denham, UK Information Commissioner – independent regulatory office dealing with the UK Freedom of Information law.

Lord James Wallace of Tankerness, former member of the Scottish Government who piloted the Freedom of Information Act through the Scottish Parliament.

With thanks to the Information Law and Policy Centre, the Embassy of Sweden and the Embassy of Finland.